Internet Day: 1969, October 29, the first message
The Internet is an ocean of information, and it all originated in a stressful day of study among young university researchers, in the United States: at 10.30 pm on October 29, 1969, the graduate student in computer science Charles Kline tries to send a message from a computer of the ‘University of California of Los Angeles (UCLA) at one in the Stanford Research Institute, over 500 km away.
Kline intended the message to be the word “LOGIN”, but only the first two letters were transmitted before the system crashed.
The beginning of the Internet
This is the beginning of the ARPANET story: a “LO” sent by a computer the size of a room. The “complete message” was then successfully sent an hour later. The ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), the “father” of the Internet, was a university project funded by the United States Department of Defense.
When it was started in 1958, its purpose was to prevent the Soviets from making more surprises in America like Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. When the surveillance tasks were assigned to NASA, ARPANET was converted into a communication network between university poles.
That evening, in 1969, Kline thought he had contributed to a useful tool for a small group of people, certainly not having made another big leap for humanity. Initially, ARPANET included only two nodes, the UCLA computer and the Stanford computer.
Later in the same year two more were added, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and in Utah, in Salt Lake City. In 1973, ARPANET became international, connecting two centers, the Norwegian Seismic Array of Kjeller, near Oslo, and the University College of London.
Some of the features we now associate with the Internet, such as the absence of “centralized control“, were already in this original network, where information was organized in hundreds of thousands of small “packages” made to travel through a node (any hardware device in able to communicate with others on the network) to the other.
When a node went offline, the data packets found alternative ways to reach their destination, flowing into this network of connections which, meanwhile, continued to grow.
The Communication Protocols
A rapid and shared communication required a common language. The rules of this new language – communication protocols that defined the rules of interaction to be observed within the network – were formulated, in 1974, by computer scientists Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, authors of the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and of the Internet Protocol (IP).
These sets of rules define, for example, the standard format that data packets must have, in addition to a uniform system of “addresses”, so that networks can find and communicate (what we now know as IP addresses).
The birth of the Internet
ARPANET adopted these protocols on 1 January 1983, marking the birth of the Internet. Initially, this system, lacking a formal code of conduct, served to connect a small group of academics, and it was also very difficult for someone to take advantage of such a limited medium, for propaganda or commercial purposes.
As the New Scientist points out, the Internet-related problems we face today, such as the continuous violations of privacy, and fake news, are partly rooted in that first period of limited context that relied on good intentions .
Later, when Internet became public, the anonymity guaranteed by the Internet paved the way for its darker implications, from verbal violence to disinformation, to criminal activities on the dark network.
In 1989, the World Wide Web (WWW) was born in the laboratories of CERN in Geneva. Its inventor, British scientist Tim Berners-Lee, initially conceived it as a description of a system for managing the vast amount of information relating to CERN experiments among the thousands of scientists who worked there. A network that allows you to browse through the various publicly available content using links as well as systems that analyze data and return indexes of available content, search engines.
The first Web browser was written by Berners-Lee himself, in 1990, and in 1991 the Web – which is not synonymous with the Internet, but its most exploited service – was made publicly available.
Over the decades Internet has undergone numerous changes and is still in continuous evolution. We don’t know what the future holds for us, but we know for sure that they will be other great steps for humanity, it remains to be understood whether for better or for worse.
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